Kids and Road Trips - Ideas for Natural Foods on the Go

Foods for Peace

If you desire a more peaceful parenting experience, re-consider your child's diet.
If you desire a more peaceful parenting experience, re-consider your child's diet.

There and Back Again...But Changed Forever

My four-month-old son had been up for thirteen straight hours.

Instead of being able to listen to the business speaker I had driven nine hours to hear, I had spent the last two hours walking the floor of the foyer with him, quietly wishing he would just shut up and go to sleep.

A few other moms had attended the business conference, and, like me, had spent the time outside the main room, trying to catch snatches of the presentation through speakers in the ceiling of the foyer. The difference between us was that, while most of their children were peacefully napping or nursing, mine was jabbering, bouncing, and screaming. He alternately froze in sleep, and awoke shrieking, because of his inability to truly rest.

Finally, in the darkness of the drive home, he crashed, and slept deeply for several hours.

What went wrong? Why couldn't my child rest?

I could tell the whole, long, agonizing story, but the essence of it is: He was sugared up.

Bad Snack Choices

If you learn to say "No," your tastebuds will soon say "Yuck!" to too much sugar.
If you learn to say "No," your tastebuds will soon say "Yuck!" to too much sugar.

Good Snack Choices

Fruits and vegetables will provide brain- and body-building nutrients, not a sugar rush.
Fruits and vegetables will provide brain- and body-building nutrients, not a sugar rush.

A World of Good Foods

Bread and cheese have their place in a healthy diet. Train your children to appreciate various flavors and grains.
Bread and cheese have their place in a healthy diet. Train your children to appreciate various flavors and grains.

Enter Child Protection Services

It wasn't really my choice. I had been compelled by Child Protection Services, two weeks earlier, to stop nursing my baby, and put him on formula. He was said to be experiencing failure to thrive. If only they had looked at the weight history of the family, they would have seen their mistake. He was a thin baby, yes - but was only following in the footsteps of his wiry forebears.

He hated the formula. In order to keep him from being taken away and hospitalized, I resorted to mixing fruit juice with it, which made it palatable to him. Hence, the frustration of his road trip debut. Confined to his car seat, he simply could not figure out what to do with his system's urgent pleas for activity.

My little boy was sugared up for at least four solid months, during a prime growing period, before we shook the surveillance of Social Services enough to switch him to unadulterated goats milk.

Now, my son and I work together to keep him balanced. He knows why I don't dare slip him much sugar, at breakfast or any other time, and, when offered a normal sized serving of something sweet by well-meaning adults, he politely says it's too big. Wise, for a kindergartner. He doesn't like feeling fragmented by hyperactivity any more than I like hearing him act like he's about to vaporize.

My husband and I have therefore come up with many ideas for low-sugar, child-friendly foods, and all feel better for not relying on sugar to keep us "up", or make meals convenient. We have taken many long trips, with two children with varying tastes and opinions, and have never since experienced the level of frustration I did on that first road trip as a mother.

Consider the Length of Your Road Trip

When planning your menu, the first thing to consider is the length of the trip. Is it four hours, or fourteen? If it is relatively short, you will perhaps want to pack larger, more meal-like portions, versus snacks, as the kids will not have as much time to feel bored, and will be more ready to go when you reach your destination if they feel fuller.

Second, how early are you leaving? If you can take time to eat breakfast at home before you start, natural peanut butter toast on whole wheat bread, or eggs, toast, and meat in any combination, should do. If you want your children to feel fuller, longer, be sure to add some potatoes, but prepare them yourself, as many commercial preparations contain unnecessary quantities of sugar. Serve water or milk instead of fruit juice.

If you are leaving before sunup, below are some items we have found work well while on the go.

Eggs Are Good Protein for Many of Us

True free-range, organic chicken eggs are good food for many people.
True free-range, organic chicken eggs are good food for many people.

Ideas For Main Courses for Road Trip Fare

1) Prepare burritos stuffed with beans and cheese, (meat and peppers are optional), then wrap in foil. If you don't like them cold, see if there is enough room in your engine compartment to set them on the intake manifold for a while, while you drive. They should be toasty in an hour or two. Any kind of flatbread or tortilla wrap can be used instead of burritos.

2) Slice or otherwise prepare fresh fruit, and divide servings into baggies.

3) Natural peanut-butter-and-something-besides-jelly sandwiches are always a good standby, provided your child does not have nut allergies. Try bananas, sliced or shredded cheese, or shredded carrots. If peanut or nut allergies are a problem, consider some other sandwich, such as roast beef, cheese, or cucumber and cream cheese. We usually prepare a variety of sandwich fixings, from summer squash to corn chips, then package them handily, and prepare as suits our fancy en route. If you don't mind soggy-sandwich syndrome, you can prepare tuna salad or something similar, and fix portions beforehand. Wraps or pita pockets can be substituted for bread, and you can always package the filling of your choice in a freezer box, and make the meal as you go (provided you are not the sole driver). Whole grain bread, or bagels, are nearly always a better choice than white.

4) Because we also avoid preservatives, we prefer to make our own egg McMuffin-type sandwiches. Half-wheat baking powder biscuits with hard-fried eggs, cheese, and meat (your choice) are delicious, and can be wrapped in foil and heated the same as burritos. Other options for easy-to-use egg ideas are egg salads or deviled eggs (experiment at home with your preferred ingredients and combinations).

5) Cold pizza. Some varieties go over better cold than others, but most ingredients stick fairly well, assuring less mess than hot pizza, and tend to keep tummies full for a reasonable length of time.

Trail Mixes Should Have More Protein Than Sugar

Consider making your own trail mixes, so you can control the amount and kind of sweetener.
Consider making your own trail mixes, so you can control the amount and kind of sweetener.

Ideas for Snacks

When choosing snacks, consider your children's mental as well as their physical needs. Things that crunch can be very comforting, and fruit can be emotionally stimulating, inducing joyous moods. Don't underestimate the value of things that take a while to eat, such as jerky, or trail mixes with many interesting ingredients, as these give your children something to do, and may be just the ticket as you enter Hour Four of your 10-hour road trip.

Consider:

1) Sliced cheese and crackers, divided into servings and slipped into baggies

2) Lobster tails or crawdads (crayfish), wrapped in foil for heating

3) Non-sugary crackers (think garden or cheese variety, not Teddy Grahams)

4) Carefully chosen trail mixes

5) Popcorn with oil or butter, herbs and spices (instead of caramel or food coloring Red #40).

6) Veggie sticks or bites (carrots, celery, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, sweet or pickled peppers, etc.). Something different, such as bright yellow or red carrots, purple cauliflower, or star-shaped summer squash slices can be helpful.

7) Fruits, cut small or in interesting shapes. Slicing apples with the "stars" showing can make a world of difference to a child. I only recommend fresh bananas for children four and over, as they are highly squishable.

8) Beef jerky or beef sticks

9) Dried fruit or veggies. You are better off to prepare these yourself, if you can, as many commercially dried fruits have sugar added (and sulfur). Besides, you may be able to offer a greater variety than your supermarket, and some kids love zucchini chips and wild plum nuggets.

10) Deviled or hard-boiled eggs (in a plastic freezer box).

11) Breadsticks, plain or with add-ins such as herbs, spices, seeds, cheese, vegetables, or raisins.

12) Yogurt or kefir, in appropriate sized cups or bottles (if not making your own, read labels and research companies).

13) Plain water, as opposed to fruit-flavored, as the fruit-flavored will tempt children to drink it faster, inducing more rest-area stops.

Final Thoughts on Quality Foods for You and Your Kids

Most types of foods, with forethought, can be turned into good road trip meals or snacks. If you are willing to prepare them yourself, even many normally high-sugar items can be made suitable for sweetener-sensitive people, by adjusting either the amounts or the kinds of sweeteners used. Some people, who normally go bonkers if they sniff sugar, do not react adversely to honey, molasses, pure maple syrup, or stevia. Avoid corn-syrup altogether (easier said than done).

As a responsible parent, just be sure to play the game fairly, and don't insist that your children eat celery while you have a donut or snack bar.

If your children are used to having sugar throughout the day, don't expect to be able to cut their diet back all at once. Sugar cravings are a real addiction, and sudden removal can result in actual withdrawal symptoms, including headache and malaise. The brain functions differently without a constant supply of sugar, and, given time, you will see a happy difference in yourself and your children.

"Test drive" any foods that your children are not used to, before the Big Day. This will allow you to smooth out any problems, or change your game plan.

But mostly, enjoy the scenery, and never forget the paper towels!

Dr. Price's Research - Life-Changing Foundation of Nourishing Traditions

© 2009 Joy At Home

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Comments 6 comments

Christa Dovel profile image

Christa Dovel 7 years ago from The Rocky Mountains, North America

Good advise! I love to take dried fruit along, as it is stretchy, crunchy and healthy. Dried apples make a good substitute for mayonnaise, and keep the bread from getting soggy. (I HATE soggy bread!)


Joy At Home profile image

Joy At Home 7 years ago from United States Author

Christa, what a great idea! (apples).


LiftedUp 7 years ago

Dear Joy,

I know you have had this hub up for a while, but I just now took the time to read the whole thing, and I felt the sense of adventure in planning and preparing food items as I read. I felt, too, your love for your children, your consciousness of their needs and desires, and your determination to do your part to contribute to a happy, successful trip, for you and your family! Happy traveling!


Joy At Home profile image

Joy At Home 7 years ago from United States Author

Thanks, LiftedUp! Most of our trips have been fun, adventurous and happy.


Kat 6 years ago

I hear that high-fiber foods keep people fuller longer, but doesn't seem to work for my kids. after a big whole wheat bagel with peanut butter and bananas, they are either claiming they are still hungry, or about 30 min later they are starving AGAIN! my oldest are 10 and 7. any suggestions?

kat


Joy At Home profile image

Joy At Home 6 years ago from United States Author

Kat,

I don't know what physical conditions your children are, but it sounds like to me that they're either in growth spurts, or may be experiencing cravings because of a too-sudden transition to different foods than normal. I'm not sure what your normal diet is for them, but particularly if it is high in sugar, they will need some time to adjust to the slower energy release provided by healthier foods. Wholesome, nutrient-rich foods typically don't provide the "rush" your children may be used to.

Alternatively, your children's bodies might be so intent on building back health into damaged areas, that they are calling for more nutrients than it is easy to give. Remember, even healthy foods - whole grains, fruits and vegetables, etc. - can start out nutrient-depleted because of overused soil. Also, parasites and yeast overgrowths (Candida Albicans) can effect the way nutrients are absorbed. You might be wise to check if either of these are an issue for your children (or you). Many people experience these troubles without ever suspecting it.

Since you have asked for my advice, I suggest to you trying different types of protien for your children, as it is also possible they are dealing with blood-sugar imbalances (not necessarily diabetes!). Some people get along much better on cheese, some on ham, some on nuts and legumes (peanut butter counts), others on red meats (fat and all).

Whole grains are a bit trickier to figure out. Above I have listed a book I very highly recommend - Nourishing Traditions. You have probably heard something about this book, if you have been seeking a healthier family. One of the things it teaches is how to properly prepare whole grains to get the most out of them. The preparations are typically not complicated, but can make a world of difference...such as soaking legumes in water and an acid, like whey or lemon juice, or sprouting grains and/or soaking them in yogurt. The book explains the why and wherefore of all these and many more things, and is worth having on hand.

If you find something that really works for your kids, feel free to drop another comment, to share your experience and so help others. :-)

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